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An artist’s reflection on the natural connectors between the obvious and the hidden


Joanna Gair employs papermaking, light and painting techniques in her latest exhibition Within in the Middle Gallery. Drawing on certain, imbued qualities of traditional papermaking as a vehicle for contemporary interpretation in the context of a personal response to her father’s recent demise. Within also explores persistent, symbols of memory, loss, transit and love and allows for the materials themselves to be part of the subject matter. Devonport Regional Gallery.

Joanna Gair has been an experimental papermaker for over 22 years, studying textiles and painting at the South Australian School of Art. She began her professional practice in Scotland in 1999 and has had a fascination for botanical fibres since childhood.

Joanna Gair

Joanna Gair

Her latest exhibition of work is entitled Within and is at the Devonport Regional Gallery until the 9 July 2017. It then tours to Hobart, where it will be exhibited at Penny Contemporary gallery from 25 August – 10 September 2017.

Joanna reflects on the exhibition and her practice below.

“I’ve been experimenting recently with watermarks; thinking about how these secretive, internal lines can be revealed to convey form and meaning.

“Drawing” within the structure of the paper itself is a discipline, it’s a technique with a long tradition linked to the origins of papermaking itself. These are marks of ownership, origin and provenance. Watermarks demand a simplicity which is compatible with the geometry of paper, and the fundamental selection of fibre. It’s as much a science as an art.

Lately I’ve been seeking ways to comment on my Father’s illness and recent death. In doing so I’ve created works to distil the many facets of my relationship to my Father. In the work Thomas a Beckett (Within) 2016 Dad’s handkerchiefs have become an unwitting symbol for his demise.

I’ve also been looking at mazes as natural connectors between the obvious and the hidden. The paper and the watermark.

I’ve presented the watermarked papers on lit frames rather than conventional cumbersome light boxes, the intention was to create extensions of the framing process. The Middle Gallery at the Devonport Regional Gallery, with its dark, enclosed space is a perfect immersive space to present these back-lit works.

Provenance II, acrylic on canvas detail.

Provenance II, Joanna Gair, acrylic on canvas detail.

There are two large canvases presented alongside the lit pieces. (Provenance 1 and 2, 2017) My ambition was to examine the complexities of handmade paper through paint. A stripping back through the fibres, a play on the imminent folds, the edges and format. Paper as subject matter.

Although I trained as a painter and painting has always been at the core of the way I communicate, for some unknown reason, it’s been a long journey to unite paper and paint in my practice, but I’m there now and I’m distracted by where this might lead next.”

Joanna Gair, 2017

Click here for more information about Joanna Gair.